What Does Desktop Manufacturing Do?
by Christian on Sep 14, 2023
Production-grade manufacturing equipment is huge and expensive. The machines fill entire factories, costing thousands upon thousands of pounds to purchase. Or that’s how it used to be.
Technological advancements have miniaturized manufacturing equipment to the point that the machines can now fit on an everyday work desk. With the decrease in size, their price tags have also shrunk enough that desktop manufacturing solutions are within the budgets of even small businesses and workshops.
But are these small workhorses good for anything? What can they do?
Our “Do Something!” blog series has covered the possibilities of 3D printing and 3D scanning. In this third and final part, you’ll learn what desktop manufacturing is and what it can do for your business.
What is Desktop Manufacturing?
The concept of desktop manufacturing covers a wide range of manufacturing technologies shrunk down to a compact footprint. Technically speaking, any manufacturing method can belong under the umbrella of “desktop manufacturing” as long as the machines are small and affordable enough.
Some of the most common and popular desktop manufacturing technologies include:
Laser cutters and engravers, like those from Flux, use a high-intensity laser beam to cut parts out of a sheet of material or etch text or images onto an object’s surface. They are versatile machines that can engrave a great variety of materials. Desktop-sized cutters also have enough laser power to cut soft materials, such as fabric, wood, or acrylic.
Laser cutters are ideal options for branding products and making accurate cuts for decorations and other intricate products.
Water Jet Cutters
Water jet cutters mix a high-pressure water stream with an abrasive material to form a powerful slicing water jet. Traditionally, these have been huge and expensive machines, but compact units like Wazer are bringing the technology to everyone’s reach.
Even at desktop sizes, water jet cutters have enormous cutting power that can slice plastic, metal, glass, and stone. Machine component manufacturers or construction materials suppliers, for example, can benefit greatly from a small and powerful water jet cutter.
Desktop CNC machines, such as Pocket NC, function exactly as their gigantic siblings — only at a smaller scale. They enable SMEs and even one-person manufacturing operations to machine high-quality products, from machinery components to detailed decorations. They can work with most materials regular-sized CNC machines can, although they naturally can’t produce as big parts in one piece.
Circuit Board Printers
Printed circuit boards (PCBs) aren’t anything new, but the ability to produce them at your work desk is. Desktop PCB printers can create functional, complex circuitry in a matter of hours. Advanced machines, like those from Voltera, can even print flexible and stretchable PCBs for biomedical applications.
Metal 3D Printers
Although 3D printing isn’t generally counted among desktop manufacturing technologies, there’s always an exception. Desktop metal 3D printers, like Raise3D or Ultimaker machines, create geometrically and structurally complex metal parts by extruding metallic filament in layers. After sintering, the material forms a solid metal component.
The surface quality of 3D-printed metal parts is often rough — but that’s where 3D printing joins hands with desktop manufacturing. For example, you can use a desktop CNC machine to smoothen surface texture and mill printed parts for tighter tolerances. Metal 3D printers are a good addition to the arsenal of machinery or automotive parts producers.
8 Things Desktop Manufacturing Can Do
A well-equipped desktop manufacturing workshop provides you with a flexible platform for producing parts and products for nearly any industry. Some technologies share certain capabilities, while others are unique in the things they can do. Here are some of the most common use cases for desktop manufacturing.
1. Create Prototypes
Even if you plan to outsource mass-scale production to a full-sized factory, desktop manufacturing solutions allow you to create detailed, life-like prototypes of the final product. For example, you can CNC machine or 3D print car part samples or create a functional demonstration model for an electronic gadget.
2. Mark and Decorate Products
Laser cutters and engravers enable you to leave your mark on your products. They can etch or burn both text and images onto a wide variety of surfaces — even curved ones with an additional rotary component. Add your company logo to brand your products, offer customizable products to clients, or etch crucial safety information onto parts to make sure the user can’t accidentally remove it.
3. Produce End-Use Parts and Components
All desktop manufacturing technologies can be used to create high-quality end-use-ready products, parts, and components. Laser and water jet cutters allow you to produce gears, decorations, and other thin products. With a mini CNC machine, you can machine 3D-printed metal parts to tight tolerances, achieving high-quality surfaces and complex geometries without assembly. PCBs created with a desktop printer are just as functional as those made with larger machines.
4. Get Products to Market Faster
Desktop manufacturing solutions enable you to iterate on designs without having to wait for delivery on outsourced products. As a result, you can develop products quickly and start offering them to your clients. Desktop manufacturing can also help you provide quality products to customers while waiting for a third party to set up a mass manufacturing line for large-scale production.
5. Streamline Supply Chains
Supply chain disruptions can be potentially crippling to your operations. Desktop manufacturing solutions bring great production power into your own facilities. You may be able to even completely eliminate the need to outsource manufacturing for your prototypes or final products, delivering significant time and cost savings.
6. Manufacture Electronics
PCB printers enable you to produce fully functioning circuit boards for a wide range of electronics. Meanwhile, laser cutters, CNC machines, or 3D printers let you produce gorgeous cases for the devices. You can set up an entire electronics production line in a single room.
7. Produce Medical and Scientific Devices
The Voltera Nova can create soft, malleable, and stretchable PCBs. They enable the production of wearable electronics that bring electronic components close to the wearer’s skin. Combine stretchy PCBs with flexible or medical 3D printing materials to produce safe and comfortable medical devices.
8. Train Future Professionals
Desktop manufacturing solutions function like their larger counterparts while being much more affordable, which makes them ideal for schools, universities, and other educational institutions. Students in engineering, medical, and other programs can explore their ideas and learn to use real-life manufacturing technologies they will encounter later in their careers.
Start Manufacturing on Your Work Desk
Desktop manufacturing solutions are revolutionizing small-scale production. They enable companies both small and large to expand their product catalogues, improve product development and manufacturing processes, save time and money, and offer better service to their customers.
Whichever industry you’re active in, desktop manufacturing technologies can offer significant benefits to your company. You only need to decide which of them suit your needs and products. With a well-equipped desktop manufacturing workshop, you’ll be ready to take your manufacturing operation to a whole new level. Want to learn more about desktop manufacturing or need help choosing the right machines for your business? The friendly and knowledgeable Solid Print3D manufacturing experts are there for you! Call us at 01926 333 777 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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If you are interested in a 3D printer or workbench manufacturing machine, seeing a sample part can be the best way to decide if it is right for your business. Request your sample and our team will be in touch to analyse…
- The surface finish requirements
- The required strength and material properties to choose the technology to produce your sample.
After this, we can supply you with a bespoke sample from your CAD file.